Dr Wilma Dierkes, associate professor, Elastomer Technology & Engineering Group, at the University of Twente will share some of her research results in a presentation titled: “Potential and feasibility of tire recycling technologies” at the Future Tire Conference 2016, 24-25 May in Essen, Germany.
FTC 2016: Interview with materials & recycling expert Dr Wilma Dierkes
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What are the main challenges ahead of the industry in terms of waste tires?
Over 1 billion of waste tires are generated each year worldwide. Finding a useful outlet for this waste stream is a major challenge. Simply burning for recovery of energy is a way to get rid of waste tires, but the material is lost. And one of the main challenges of mankind is to ensure the availability of raw materials for the future. In this context, recycling comes more and more to the fore. However, the application of recycled rubber is nowadays still limited, as the addition of rubber powder or reclaim results in property losses. The challenge is to develop recycling processes for high-quality recycled rubber; only then significant amounts of rubber can be recycled and reused.
Over recent years, what do you see as the most significant development to have happened in the tire industry in terms of recycling?
Recycling and the use of recycled material lately developed into a heavily discussed issue in the tire industry. Earlier, recycled rubber was used as it brought important processing advantages with it, but this was not commonly known. Nowadays, the potential of recycled rubber is openly discussed, and even accompanied by activities from the tire industry to develop more appropriate methods for recycling and reuse.
What single development in recycling would do most to improve the future of the tire industry and why?
In recycling, short loops are the most efficient ones; in the case of tires this would be a fine powder or a devulcanizate, which can be blended with a virgin compound and, in the latter case, re-vulcanized. This is then the most efficient way to produce a high-quality raw material for tire production. However, there are limitations to the quality of the recycled rubber from tires: one limitation is the contamination of the ground rubber with non-rubber components, and the other one is the blend of different compounds of the rubber from a tire. This will eventually limit the quality of the recycled rubber, no matter how good the devulcanizate as such is. The availability of ‘clean’ tire rubber from single components of a tire will significantly improve the quality of the recycled rubber.
Looking into the crystal ball, what big changes do you expect to see in tires and the tire industry by 2030?
I expect that the general trend to more sustainable products will also reach the tire industry. This will finally lead to an increasing demand for ‘greener’ tires. Already now, ‘greener’ rubber additives are developed, including recycled rubber. This trend will intensify and by 2030 I expect that there will be more sustainable tires with a significantly lower carbon footprint – but still high quality – in the front display of tire shops.
Future Tire Conference 2016 will be held during the Reifen 2016 /RubberTech Europe expos on 24-27 May in Essen, Germany. For more information, please visit the Future Tire Conference website.
For registration details, please contact the conference support team.
About the speaker
Dierkes studied chemistry at the Technical University in Hanover, Germany. She continued with a postgraduate study in environmental science at the Fondation Universitaire Luxembourgeoise, Arlon, Belgium.
The next step in her career was the R&D department of Robert Bosch Produktie, Tienen, Belgium, where she developed windshield wipers. Additionally, she was head of the chemical laboratory and part of the trouble-shooting team in the production facility. In 2001, she started to work for the University of Twente, Enschede, where she is still working as associate professor in the chair of Elastomer Technology and Engineering. From 2009 till 2013 she also held a part-time professorship at the Tampere Technical University, Finland.
Dierkes' key research areas are reinforcing filler technology, with emphasis on silica filler systems, and recycling and re-utilisation of elastomers. Other research areas are polymer networks and fibre reinforcement. Since she started her research work at the university, she has published more than 60 reviewed papers, 11 book chapters, and she holds 4 patents.
For about 10 years, Dierkes was a board member of the Dutch Association of Plastics and Rubber Technologists (VKRT), and from 2005 till 2014 she was the chairman of this association. Besides, she is a founding member of the Female Faculty Network at the University Twente (FFNT), of which she also was a board member and chairperson for three years.